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Chicago, IL
USA

Cities of Peace seeks to amplify the struggles of young people in Chicago and Phnom Penh as they organize to transform harm and create community healing. Using their own site-specific histories as a jumping off point, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Peace Institute of Cambodia will form Community Peace Councils which will interrogate the roots of structural and relational violence and practice transformative justice. They will produce a documentary film, develop exhibitions, and participate in an international exchange which will culminate in a Community Peacebuilding Summit in Chicago in the summer of 2015.

History

"True peace is not simply the absence of war." - Jane Addams 

Jane Addams was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. A founder and president of the Women’s Peace Party, she empowered women across the U.S. – and eventually around the world – to demand an end to World War I. At a time when American women were not even permitted to vote, she spoke at The Hague and lobbied political leaders.

Yet for Addams, peace-making encompassed much more than protesting war. It meant listening to mothers who had lost their children to combat, and lending support to conscientious objectors. It included speaking up against racialized violence, and building playgrounds where neighbors could get to know each other.

Just as Addams’ peace-building took multiple forms, it also enlisted all kinds of participants. Addams argued that peace-building should include and benefit women, low-wage workers, migrants, and people of color. Almost a century later however, these communities disproportionately face mass incarceration, police brutality, poverty, criminalization, deportation, and domestic violence.

The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (JAHHM) serves as a dynamic memorial to Jane Addams, her fellow reformers, and the migrant neighbors who struggled to organize, engage in cultural exchange, and impact national and international public policy. Cities of Peace utilizes JAHHM’s extensive experience in bringing diverse constituents from across the city into meaningful conversations that move towards action, expertise in thinking about peace broadly as well as within specific historical and cultural contexts, and the research and documentary resources of the University and activates PIC’s approach to youth development, international exchange, and transformative justice.  As members of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, JAHHM and PIC are   committed to partnering with community members to collect histories, create educational resources, and facilitate cross-cultural collaboration.  JAHHM and PIC are ideally positioned to act as community facilitators based on a proven track record of community curation, youth empowerment, and international exchange.

The Kingdom of Cambodia is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia and is struggling to recover from the loss of 1.7 million lives between 1975 and 1979 under the Khmer Rouge, which destroyed social institutions, culture, and family traditions. The conflict, which led to the deaths of nearly one in four Cambodians, upended every aspect of Cambodian society.  While Cambodia has no armed conflict at this time, the trauma from the Khmer Rouge is still palpable, and peace and justice remain elusive. Racial discrimination, violence, drug use, and sex trafficking are widespread. Recent government efforts to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS infection have shown some success, but Cambodia continues to struggle with a high infection rate.

In Phnom Penh, PIC helps people confront the trauma and envision a better future through restorative justice practices.  In 2009, PIC established the Krian Ta Chan Community Peace Learning Center, an initiative designed to help people address social and political conflict in order to bring peace and democracy to Cambodia.  PIC has engaged thousands of young people in critical inquiry, research, and exhibition development as a way to remember the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, to enforce the conciliatory efforts of the Paris Peace Agreements, and to address the needs of young people growing up in the shadows of genocide, poverty, and social upheaval. PIC has also developed a youth leadership, life skills, and job training program in order to foster civic engagement and economic self determination. Finally, PIC has facilitated numerous international youth exchanges, most recently with Northern Uganda, focusing on youth-led efforts to restore social accountability in post-conflict areas. The three-month exchange model utilized to educate Cambodian and Ugandan youth about leadership, female empowerment, and government accountability will be the model for Cities of Peace.

The origins of Chicago and Phnom Penh’s respective social problems are historically and culturally specific; in both places, however, social inequality and instability affect youth most acutely.  In both cities, expanding wealth inequality results in disproportionately little access to educational resources for low-income youth, putting them at risk of arrest and incarceration.  With the breakup of families and conventional support systems caused by violence, these youth lack the models, resources, and education needed to help them cope.  Both populations of young people will benefit from developing dialogue skills and re-envisioning their own struggles from the perspective of their international peers, helping them to determine a clear road map for how to claim opportunities for themselves and their communities.  As an inter-community and intercultural dialogue between community members and peace activists in Chicago and Phnom Penh, Cities of Peace aims to enrich the knowledge and available resources and to expand the possibilities for meaningful change in both communities.